The herring, the Scottish highlander and the hummingbird: these are the geometric animals milled from wood that made Fabryk Design from Donkerbroek a name for itself. Esther Veenstra’s designs are hugely popular in trendy interiors.

Amid all the major national and international brands, Esther Veenstra’s lifestyle label Fabryk Design made its debut at the renowned vtwonen&design fair last year. ,,That it would take off like that, I never would have dared to dream,” Esther looks back. Last July, she celebrated her company’s four-year anniversary. Where it all started from a little office at home, using the garage as a stockroom, Fabryk Design has now been located for two years in – how appropriate – the former dairy factory in Donkerbroek. And in those two years, that location also proved to be too small, as an expansion with a second (work) shed and a creative studio is now a reality. Fabryk Design has the wind in its sails.

In many a modern Instagram interior, they adorn the wall: Fabryk’s geometric animals. Today’s offerings, meanwhile, consist of much more than just wall decorations. Home accessories, stationary, gift items, lamps, decorative pillows, a garden collection, a kids’ collection (Fabryk Junior) and custom furniture are also part of the assortment. All with Fabryk’s signature: modern, contemporary and playful.

However, it was a custom-made bench that launched Esther’s creative venture. ,,It all started with the ‘Fabryk bench’. I asked my husband Sytze, who worked at a construction company at the time, to make me a wooden bench with a metal base. I shared a picture of it on Facebook and soon it was raining questions with where to buy the bench. We saw trade in that and so the ball started rolling.”

She already had experience in retail. ,,I used to work at Modehuis Boersma in Wolvega as a manager. I really enjoyed that, but when I turned 30 I thought: is this it? It started itching, I wanted something different, something in which I could express my creativity.” After six months of pioneering alongside her full-time job, she decided to quit her regular job to focus fully on her dream: her own creative enterprise. I was terrified, because I was giving up part of my job security. But it was the best decision ever. I firmly believe that if you really want something, it will succeed.

She now runs Fabryk Design – the name is a compound: Fa stands for family, Bryk means crooked in Frisian – together with nineteen employees, from interns to permanent workers. About eighty orders a week go out, of which the originals (the Scottish highlander, hummingbird and herring) and wall circles are the best running items. In addition to its own webshop, Fabryk items are sold by some 42 outlets in the Netherlands and Belgium. In the North, these are stores such as Sellini Wonen in Joure, Cocoon in Akkrum , Tuindorado in Drachten and Kadohut in Winschoten.

Every product is made by hand. ”From drawing board to milling machine to packaging. I definitely don’t want mass production,” Esther emphasizes. ,,In addition, we work as sustainably as possible. We use recycled materials from local companies. Also in terms of transportation, we do all collaborations with entrepreneurs within a 40-50 kilometer radius. There is so much beauty available locally. It’s all about short lines.”

The team gets inspiration for the collections from trends, magazines, (inter)national trade fairs, living programs. ,,We work with two permanent designers and freelance designers.” Fabryk responds to seasons and holidays, but also to current events. ”When the news broke about the forest fires in Australia, we put our heads together and came up with a plan to raise money. We marketed a koala and kangaroo, part of the proceeds of which we donated to charity.”

Social side branch

For six months now, the lifestyle label has also had a social side branch, a long-cherished dream of Esther’s. With FRBK-Werkt! she gives people with a distance to the labor market a chance to participate in the company. A personal experience led to that idea. ,,Sytze had a serious accident twelve years ago. Fell off the roof, 8 meters down. He broke his back and had serious head injuries. He was in a coma for three weeks, but fortunately did not suffer any serious permanent brain damage from the accident. He was very lucky, we realized. It could have ended very differently. That’s why we thought it would be nice to do something for people who have disabilities.”

From being physically busy, from working, you also grow,” says Esther. That is the approach of FBRK-Werkt! Our goal is to challenge people, to discover where their talents and interests lie. At their own pace, of course.

In doing so, the company accommodates three target groups. ,,Participants in the daycare program, many of whom are mentally disabled, are trained in developing employee skills. In this way, they learn step by step to perform tasks independently as much as possible, tailored to their own interests. The talent spending is for participants who have a normal mental level, but due to illness, mental vulnerability or physical limitations cannot do regular work. With us, they still make and feel useful, because the work process is focused on their own abilities. And then there is the reintegration program, intended for participants who want to return to regular work and/or education.

Esther emphasizes: ,,It’s not level crafting in our day care. They are really part of the team, just like everyone else. We all work towards one goal and that is to make cool products.

Life as an entrepreneur

On Instagram, interior lovers know how to find the brand well, as evidenced by the large number of followers. ,,From day one we have been active on it. People are on Instagram for inspiration. We provide that by using mood photos to show how you can style our products.” Also inspiring are Esther’s short, personal stories on the account and the blogs on the website in which she gives a unique insight into her life as an entrepreneur. ”I hope to be able to inspire women and be an example for them. Entrepreneurship has been a cool journey for me so far. I am ambitious and positive, but I have also known many pitfalls. I’ve learned an awful lot from that.” Her motto? ”Don’t be afraid to go down on your face.”

Next step

The ambitious entrepreneur is full of future plans. ,,FBRK-Werkt! further develop, but also a Fabryk Store of its own is one. That should become a fun hotspot here in the North. I still have so many dreams. How cool would it be if our products could be seen on interior design programs on TV? Furthermore, I would like to make another collection with a well-known designer, become more known nationally.” The debut at the vtwonen&design fair last year was a good step in the direction. ,,That we as a relatively small label from the North stood between all those big brands, that was really a milestone. Where we are now, we worked really hard for that!”